Ethics and Global Politics 3 (1):55-70 (2010)

Well-stated modern political or democratic theory is rights-based. Meaningful democracy rests as a precondition on the equal rights of citizens. This idea stems from Rousseau’s distinction between a general will*one which is impersonal and tends toward equality, that is, the equal basic rights of citizens*and a transitory will of all. For instance, absent equal basic rights, one might imagine a possible world in which what I have called a self-undermining series of wills of all, or the results of socalled majority rule, disenfranchises the population. In the USA, one might think, contrahistorically, of a regime in which the women, as a majority, disenfranchise the men, the Black, Latin, and Asian women disenfranchise the White women, and by a series of reductions by further ‘majorities,’ three people still have the suffrage, two of whom disenfranchise one. Based on Rousseau, John Rawls’ Theory of Justice thus emphasizes the priority of the equal liberty principle over an economic difference principle.1 The difference principle permits those inequalities which also benefit the least advantaged. But the priority of the equal liberty principle rules out any inequality, otherwise beneficial to the least advantaged, which enables the rich to control the government. This priority makes equal basic rights the inescapable precondition for any decent majority rule or distribution of income. Note that in principle, such a regime may be international*even a democracy of demoi in James Bohman’s phrase - rather than national. (Published: 5 February 2010) Citation: Ethics & Global Politics, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2010, pp. 55-70. DOI: 10.3402/egp.v3i1.4854
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